Arizona man loses home, car, trailer after issues with state's unemployment system

An Arizona native and lifelong resident says the state's unemployment system failed him, left him with just $40 to his name and a broken dream.

Raymond Eckstein lost his car, trailer and home in the last few months. He had hopes to get back on his feet, but he says he's just one of many Arizonans waiting for unemployment benefits to kick in.

Now, he’s starting his life from scratch.

Between flying sparks and tightening bolts, Eckstein knew he found his dream job as a motorcycle mechanic.

"It was good the first six months. Then COVID hit and everyone stopped riding," he said.

He applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in July hoping for the lifeline hundreds of thousands of Arizonans needed, but he says the bank card from the Department of Economic Security (DES) never came in the mail.

He called DES again in October to request the card and he says it still never arrived. After the third time he requested a card, one finally arrived in January.

He called to activate the card and he said, "There’s nothing on there."

The DES agent told him someone else activated one of the previous cards that he never received and withdrew $4,800, he said.

Eckstein called the Phoenix Police Department, but they said to report it through a DES claim.

There's another twist on his unemployment journey. Paperwork shows the state ended up disqualifying his claim and is now asking for the $4,800 dollars back, money he says he never received.

"I called several times. Four hours a day. And it just got too much," he said.

Eventually, Eckstein had to move because he couldn’t afford rent. He couldn't afford the car and trailer he was months away from owning for his business, either. They’re gone now too.

Eckstein says the unemployment lifeline that promised to help get him through this did anything but help him.

"I had everything at one time and then I lost it all because of the pandemic plus unemployment," Eckstein said.

DES says they’re finalizing research into their fraud prevention efforts and hope to be able to release more information soon.

The department doesn't comment on specific cases but Eckstein says after FOX 10 reached out on his behalf, a caseworker contacted him and told him many of his appeal emails were never even opened.

Eckstein continues to wait for an answer a year after filing his first claim.

For more reports on the Department of Economic Security, click here.

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